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Series Preview #17: Diamondbacks vs Braves

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The Braves come to Phoenix to take on the fatigued Diamondbacks.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks (23-26) vs Atlanta Braves (25-25)

The Diamondbacks are coming off a series win against the Brewers, where they took the first two but dropped the finale in a marathon 17-inning game. The team will definitely be dejected after that loss in extras, where they stranded 17 base runners and went 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position. Ouch. Overall though, they have to be pleased with how they bounced back from the Cardinals series to take 2 from Milwaukee. They are currently 4th in the West, and 6 games back of the 1st-place Dodgers.

In a year where the Braves weren't expected to do much of anything, the Braves are actually having a decent year, currently sitting at .500. Atlanta is currently 3rd in the NL East, and just 3 games behind the Nationals. They just finished up a 4 game set with San Francisco, where they dropped the first two but won the final two games. The Braves are struggling to hit homers this year, currently without 4 of their 5 top power bats from last year, and have the second least homers in the majors. The offense this year has been led by Freddie Freeman (.289 AVG, 7 HR, 26 RBI) and Andrelton Simmons (.267 AVG, 3 HR, 20 RBI).

Good News

  • The offense has been very consistent as of late, scoring 4 or more runs in 8 of their last 10 games. In fact, since the Rockies doubleheader on May 6 the Diamondbacks have scored 3 or more runs in 21 of the last 25 games. The offense is keeping the team in games.
  • Freddie Freeman has been in a big slump lately, batting .192 in his last 7 games. If he continues his slump, there's not really anyone else in the lineup who can pick up the slack.
  • Speaking of the overall lineup, there is nobody for the Braves who makes me go wow, we better be careful with him. Nobody on the team has more than 7 homers, and nobody with more than 50 plate appearances is batting over .300.

Bad News

  • The Braves starting pitching has been very good lately, entering Sunday with a 2.76 ERA in their last 7 games.
  • The Diamondbacks starting pitching on the other hand has not been good in the last week. Going into Sunday morning, the starters had a 5.29 ERA in the last 6 games. That is not going to get it done.
  • The Diamondbacks bullpen is going to be very tired (more on that in a minute).
Injury Report

We will be without catcher Tuffy Goesewich for possibly the rest of the season after he injured his knee Friday. It is feared that it is an ACL tear. Outfielder David Peralta left Sunday's game after getting hit in the hand on a failed bunt attempt. It has been reported as a left hand contusion, no word on if he will be back for this series. In happier news, we may see both Jake Lamb and/or David Hernandez return to play the Braves. Lamb has been out since the end of April with a foot injury, and Hernandez is recovering from a 2014 Tommy John surgery. Hernandez hasn't allowed an earned run in 5 innings between Visalia and Moblie during his rehab assignment.

It looks like there is nothing new to report on for Atlanta on the injury front. Nobody will be returning for this series, and nobody recently got injured.

Bullpen Status

The D-Backs went through plenty of guys in Sunday's extra innings contest, and the following pitchers will more than likely not throw Monday or beyond (pitches thrown Sunday in parenthesis): JC Ramirez (31) Daniel Hudson (24) Andrew Chafin (29) Vidal Nuno (92). They also may want to avoid using Delgado who threw 34 pitches Saturday. This leaves them with just Reed, Ziegler, and Perez, so I imagine they will make a roster move to call up a fresh arm for this series.

On Sunday, Jason Grilli threw 17 pitches and NIck Masset threw 24, so the Braves will probably avoid bringing these two in. You know who is nice in fresh though? Trevor Cahill. Hopefully we'll get a look at him in the next three days...

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Archie Bradley RHP (2-2, 5.28 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) vs Alex Wood LHP (3-2, 3.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

I'll keep it brief on Archie, because you know as well as I do that Archie has been terrible lately. In the month of May, Bradley has an 11.81 ERA. That's not very good. Control has been a huge issue, as he has walked as many batters as he struck out this month. The guy just keeps getting lit up, and like I have been saying for the last couple weeks they really need to send him down so he can find his control. I hope he proves me wrong Monday.

In his first year as a full time starter, Wood has been pretty good (hey that rhymes) allowing 3 runs or less in 8 of his 9 starts. He is a 3 pitch guy, throwing a fastball averaging 90 MPH, a knuckle-curve and a change-up. Alex has done a good job of staying away from the long ball, having allowed just 2 homers this year. Because of Wood's consistency and Archie's struggles, I'd give the Braves a huge edge in this one.

Game 2: Josh Collmenter RHP (3-5, 5.05 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) vs Shelby Miller RHP (5-2, 1.48 ERA, 0.88 WHIP)

Josh has really struggled in the month of May, with an opposing batting average of .336. Yikes. Collmenter has allowed 8 dingers in just 24 innings during May, which comes out to 3 HR/9. That's not exactly where you want to be. Guys have been hitting a lot of line drives of off him, with a line drive percentage 5% higher than his career number. It has seemed that Collmenter has left a lot of pitches right over the heart of the plate, which isn't going to fly when you just throw your fastball 84.4 MPH.

Shelby Miller, a guy who has always been a very good pitcher in his young career, has been the ace of this Braves staff. We might see a little bit of regression in this game, since Miller is at a .202 BABIP right now. This year, Miller has uncharacteristically been a ground ball pitcher, with his 49% mark about 9% higher than his career number. An explanation for this is the arrival of a 2 seam fastball and a cutter, pitches he learned last year and is now using very effectively this year. I don't see us winning this game either, for the same reasons as the 1st game.

Game 3: Rubby de la Rosa RHP (4-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) vs Mike Foltynewicz RHP (3-2, 3.96 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

Despite de la Rosa's ERA in the mid-4s, I always have a high level of confidence when Rubby takes the mound. When I look back  at the game logs I begin to question that optimism, as I see 5 games with 4 or more earned runs, but he goes pretty deep into games. He's gone 6+ innings 7 out of 10 starts this year, which I believe is a lot more than any other D-Back pitcher this year. If Rubby can go out there and give us 7 innings and allow 4 runs (which is what I expect) I have enough confidence in our offense to win the game.

For the purpose of me not getting frustrated every time I have to type this guy's name, we will just call the Braves pitcher for Wednesday by his first name. Mike is in his first full season at the Bigs, and he has been a serviceable starter for Atlanta. He throws very hard for a starter, with an average fastball velocity around 95. He also throws a 2 seamer at the same speed, so you'd think he'd be a ground ball pitcher, right? Nope. In 2015, only 33% of batted balls have been grounders, wayyyy below league average. I wouldn't expect a long start from Mike, since only 3 of his 6 starts have been longer than 6 innings.

X-Factors

I'm just going to go with one X-Factor for both teams, and I'm going to say it is the spot behind Goldy. If the guy behind Goldy struggles, whoever it may be, I'd imagine the Braves just walk him as much as they can. The 4-hole has to make Atlanta pay.


Series Prediction

The Diamondbacks starting pitchers struggle, and the Diamondbacks just win one game.